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Thursday, September 24

A Week With David M. - Part Four

Really Real Photography

by David M.

The f64 group began to interest me; I’d assembled all the 35mm lenses that I needed. I could make 20x16” prints with comparative ease and I had dabbled in colour printing. Where could I go next?

I’d borrowed an MPP from a friend for a day and liked it. Watching the out-of-focus areas on the ground glass was so entrancing that I very nearly didn’t bother to click the shutter. We didn’t know it was called bokeh in those days.

Even in the days before eBay, it was still possible to buy things. I found a chap in Carlisle who had a second hand MPP kit for sale and made him an offer. To my surprise, he took a train to London to show me the camera and I bought it immediately. Those were the days when cheap day returns were Real Cheap Day Returns.

The MPP is a remarkable camera, sturdy, versatile, British and underestimated. Many are still in use. I managed to drop mine off the rocks at Whitley Bay, while immortalising St Mary’s lighthouse and a few taps with a hammer put it right. Follow that, Leica-strokers!

Now I had a lovely camera – a Real Camera. For a while, contact prints delighted me. I began to study the Zone System and abandoned Tri-X pushed to Star Trek speeds. I began to abhor grain. Soon, I could turn out a very dainty (I thought) contact print. But we all have a nagging megalomaniac lurking inside our hearts. I wanted bigger prints. Once again, I had the wrong enlarger.

De Vere 504 - the Rolls Royce of enlargers.

This time, there was no escape from paying money. I went off to explore Mr Cad’s enlarger jungle and bought a De Vere 504 with a colour head. It seemed like a big investment, more than I’d paid for any photographic equipment before.

The De Vere is a magnificent beast – as robust as the old MPP monster, without the clumsiness and even easier to operate than the Vivitar. If you’ve never used them, the waist-level controls are a revelation.

I liked it so much that I built it its own special table. I still have it. (A Multigrade head would be nice…) Unless your ambitions are as limited as Oskar Barnack’s, you should get one for yourself. Now, I should have been content…

Continued tomorrow.

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Herman Sheephouse said...

Base-board adjustment wheels on the 504 are, indeed, a revelation!
I love my 504 - built like a tank.

Omar Özenir said...

Nice series David!
I've always wanted a De Vere 504, but eventually a Focomat 2C quenched that desire a bit. Today, I'd probably do contact prints if I ever get serious with LF.
Regards /Omar